The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. It’s a pretty common saying. It’s most likely to be used when something bad happens. Like it’s supposed to make people feel better. And it might actually accomplish that goal – if it was told correctly. It’s like the old thing about the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So here’s the truth about the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. It’s true. However, it’s not the whole truth. Therefore, it isn’t actually “nothing but the truth”.
If you’re not aware, it comes from The Old Testament – specifically the book of Job. The NIV translates like this:
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away.
Here’s the lead-in to that famous statement.
Job’s First Test
Job 1:8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
Job 1:9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
Job 1:12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.
Job 1:13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, 15 and the Sabeans attacked and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Job 1:16 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the sky and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Job 1:17 While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and carried them off. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
Job 1:18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
The Lord gives and The Lord takes away
That’s bad. Really bad. How many of us would honestly be able to respond the way Job did?
Job 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Job 1:22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
What Job said was absolutely true. We come into the world with nothing. And when we leave, no matter how much we may have accumulated – we can take none of those things with us. So Job mourns. Tearing clothes and shaving of one’s head was how people mourned in those says.
We see the actual response – in order – was
acknowledge the truth about our life in this world,
give God credit,
and praise God.
So mourning is OK.
Even giving God the “credit” for all of that tragic loss is OK. That’s especially good to know, since it wasn’t directly God that did it. Yes – God allowed it. But God was not the author of the tragic things that happened. For much more on that thought, please see If you don’t believe in the devil, then … .
The Lord gives and The Lord takes away – again
And while we may think Job has lost everything – there’s more.
Job’s Second Test
Job 2:3 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
Job 2:4 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. 5 But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
Job 2:6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
Job 2:7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
Job 2:9 His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Job 2:10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
So Job is physically affected. And yet, his response is simply a variation of The Lord gives and The Lord takes away.
The Lord gives and The Lord takes away – yet again?
While the number of tests that Job has to go through is generally counted as two, I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t three. The third one would be the people Job is in contact with during his trials. We already saw the interaction with his wife. And then there are his friends: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite – who make their appearance in chapter 2. Then there’s Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram – who shows up in chapter 32. God doesn’t speak until chapter 38, so we have 36 chapters of dialogue going back and forth between Job and his friends. In every case, they are telling Job that he is wrong. To me, that’s more suffering through trials. Even though they were his friends – they essentially turned against him in his time of need. The Lord gives and The Lord takes away?
But wait just a minute.
Is that the end of the story?
Does the book end there?
No! And No!
The Lord gives and The Lord takes away – and the Lord gives again
When God does speak, He concludes with this passage:
Epilogue – Job
Job 42:7 After the LORD had said these things to Job , he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.
Job 42:10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the LORD had brought upon him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.
Job 42:12 The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
Job 42:16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so he died, old and full of years.
The Lord gives and The Lord takes away – and the Lord gives again.
And that’s where the book ends.
And the Lord gives again
It seems that Job learned something, but that something seems to get forgotten by us today. We never hear anyone say The Lord gives and The Lord takes away – and the Lord gives again. True – we only read about that last part in the very brief section the NIV titles Epilogue. And that’s after 42 chapters in the entire book of Job. By comparison, maybe it seems trivial.
Or maybe many people never actually reach the end of the book. It’s long. It tests our attention span. If we don’t stick with it through what I referred to as the third trial of Job – all that dialogue where Job’s friends try to tell him what’s wrong – we’ll never read the ending. They try to tell him it’s his own fault. So we tune out. It’s a message we maybe don’t want to hear. So we don’t find out that Job was right all along. Further, we don’t find out that Job received twice as much as he had before.
Right about now you may be asking, So what? That was an Old Testament book. God doesn’t work that way any more. Bad things happen to people. And things don’t always get better for those people.
There are two problem with those thoughts. First of all, the Bible never says things will be better for everyone who goes through hard times. What it actually says is this:
Ro 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Much more on that thought is also available in If you don’t believe in the devil, then … , which was referenced above.
The actual promise is that things will work out for the good of those who love God. They may or may not appear to work out for the good of those who don’t. BTW, the whole truth is that for those who don’t love God – things will ultimately not work out well at all.
Which leads us to the second problem with thinking things don’t always get better. In the Old Testament, things got better or worse for God’s people in their lifetime. But with the new covenant brought by Jesus, the promise isn’t for things to get better in this life. The promise is quite different. And whether or not we view it as better – it most certainly is better. Infinitely better.
There are hints of the new covenant, even in the Old Testament. Here’s one of them.
Jer 31:33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
Jer 31:34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
Jer 31:35 This is what the LORD says,
he who appoints the sun
to shine by day,
who decrees the moon and stars
to shine by night,
who stirs up the sea
so that its waves roar—
the LORD Almighty is his name:
Jer 31:36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,”
declares the LORD,
“will the descendants of Israel ever cease
to be a nation before me.”
Jer 31:37 This is what the LORD says:
“Only if the heavens above can be measured
and the foundations of the earth below be searched out
will I reject all the descendants of Israel
because of all they have done,”
declares the LORD.
Jer 31:38 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. 40 The whole valley where dead bodies and ashes are thrown, and all the terraces out to the Kidron Valley on the east as far as the corner of the Horse Gate, will be holy to the LORD. The city will never again be uprooted or demolished.”
A future promise. One that is fulfilled in Jesus.
The Last Supper
22:7-13 pp — Mt 26:17-19; Mk 14:12-16
22:17-20 pp — Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; 1Co 11:23-25
22:21-23 pp — Mt 26:21-24; Mk 14:18-21; Jn 13:21-30
22:25-27 pp — Mt 20:25-28; Mk 10:42-45
22:33, 34 pp — Mt 26:33-35; Mk 14:29-31; Jn 13:37, 38
Lk 22:7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”
Lk 22:9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.
Lk 22:10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”
Lk 22:13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
Lk 22:14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
Lk 22:17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
Lk 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Lk 22:20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
What about the good things?
Anyone who says / thinks Jesus promised a “good” life here on earth may want to read up on a few things. For instance:
5:3-12 pp — Lk 6:20-23
Mt 5:1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:
Mt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Mt 5:5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Mt 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Mt 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Mt 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Mt 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Mt 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mt 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
That’s one heck of a lot of blessings for people who suffer in this life. But not a single one for anyone living what is normally called “the good life”.
As you read the next passage, keep in mind that if you’re a believer – you are also a disciple.
The World Hates the Disciples
Jn 15:18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Jn 15:26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. 27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.
Jn 16:1 “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you.”
The Lord gives and The Lord takes away – and the Lord gives again
And so we see the pattern of this new covenant. Life on this earth comes with no guarantee that it will be “good” in the ways of the world. However, it does come with a promise of troubles and persecution.
And yet, the full message from Job continues.
The Lord gives: God give us life on this earth.
The Lord takes away: That life may not be all fun, games and pleasantness.
The Lord gives again: For those who love God –
Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
God wants to give again. He wants us to have eternal life with Him. However, whether that happens or not is up to us. as the John 3:16 passage says.
It can be really hard to even imagine this is true. I recently wrote something about that topic as it relates to me. There’s a verse in Revelation that says And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. For me, that’s hard to imagine. With so many tears shed in this life, how can that be possible? Based on my own life, I have a harder time with And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes than I do with believing there will be eternal life. Please see Wipe away every tear from their eyes: the greatest miracle? for more on that thought.
You see, the Bible says there will be eternal life for everyone. That isn’t even the question – at least not for me. It’s how that life can be free from sadness, grief, and all the other things that we have in this life. It’s so hard to imagine. And yet – I believe it will happen. Somehow.
The Lord gives and The Lord takes away – and the Lord gives again.